How Erie, Pa., Is Communicating After Record Snowfall

While PR pros nationwide took some much-needed R&R over the Christmas break, Erie, Pa.'s professional communicators had little time to relax over the holiday.

The city of Erie received 65 inches of snow from Christmas Eve through Dec. 27—breaking a 59-year-old record for a two-day snowfall in the state, according to Reuters. And this PR News reporter just happened to be visiting Erie for the holidays.

Here are a few observations from the ground (what small part was left un-blanketed) on Erie's communications around the storm.

Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie County Executive, acted as spokesperson. Dahlkemper issued a state of temporary emergency and mobilized local resources to help dig out Erie residents. Using Twitter as her primary channel, Dahlkemper provided regular updates as well as contact information for disaster relief agencies. Dahlkemper also provided statements to national and local media outlets.

Erie County's emergency Twitter account amplified storm-related messaging. A special account for emergencies retweeted announcements, press coverage and local government officials to keep Erie residents in the know. Rather than duplicating information in original tweets, the account drove home the effectiveness of retweeting to increase social reach in an emergency.erie emergency twitter retweets

Local news outlets publicized relief efforts and effects of the storm. Erie news organizations Erie News Now and GoErie did more than just report on snow accumulation. Erie News Now ran a story on emergency response nonprofit Team Rubicon's efforts, while GoErie investigated the effect of winter storms on the region's economy, as well as updating residents on local business closures.

Erie County government websites stayed quiet. Perhaps because the storm happened over the course of a holiday week, both the Erie County and City of Erie websites lacked disaster information. It's a sign of the times that even local government agencies, which often de-prioritize new forms of digital communication, are relying solely on social media for disaster updates.

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